Tag Archives: strong

Bragging Rights

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Family Pics '14 0150 (edit)

Have you ever taken one of those life events stress inventories? I’m pretty sure we win the biggest score this year (I’m all about winning, so don’t rain on my parade if your score is bigger!). Moving to a new state, starting a new job, starting seminary, building a new home, and having a baby are all BIG life events, and we get to check each one of them in one year’s time. It’s enough to make me want to lock myself in a closet for a week and just cry. I can’t tell you that it’s all been bad. Some of it is very exciting while other parts are frustrating and cause anxiety. But then you add to all of those BIG life events the “adventure” of learning a new location (my goodness, you people don’t know BIG until you’ve been to Houston…I’m saying….), finding a new church, and making new friends (did I mention I’m an introvert??). Someone get me a paper bag so I don’t hyperventilate.

For some reason, I’m doing fine! (well today…ask me tomorrow, I may not be so fine.) The insanity doesn’t seem so insane. That Reason is my God. Oh how I love Him.

I wrote about the blessing of the thorn as something that keeps us humble. I’d like to boast in my God for this post. He is the One who gives us good things. One of those things is faith or trust. I have seen Him turn my anxious heart into one of bold trust in Him. Here’s a simple, very real example. I am due to give birth to our third boy April 17 (can you imagine three little Farmer boys? seriously…I’m going to be one fit momma). We close on our house April 9. Now unless the medical world has come up with some medicine that miraculously allows you to have your baby whenever you want, I’m pretty sure I can’t depend on this little one to show up on his due date. I can’t even depend on him to hold off until after we get moved in. For all I know, he could come tonight. This REALLY bothered me for, oh, the last 8 months. I just want to have it my way. I would tell people at church, “Please pray that the baby comes on or after his due date!” But then I went to the doctor for my 36 week visit, and she tells me I’m already dilated and thinning out some. *GASP* Let the panic attack begin. I freaked out for a few days (packed my bags since I was so sure he’d come at any moment), but then I got wise and started to ask my friends to pray for me. Keep in mind every cell in my body and thought in my mind was set to anxiety overload. There was nothing I could do to change this, or the events that will soon take place. I was so pathetic, and yet God breathed peace into my heart and mind, allowing me to stop and rest in Him. He spoke truth over me, and I can have full assurance that whatever happens is going to be the best (and though the best may be hard, it’s still the best).

I can boast that my God is able. There’s nothing too big for Him to handle. There’s nothing too small for Him to care deeply about concerning me. He is able. (Mark 10:27; 1 Peter 5:7)

I can boast that my God is strong. In my weak moments when I lose perspective and begin to worry over the things in this life, He gives me sufficient grace so that when I’m weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Deuteronomy 11:2; Psalm 68:35)

I can boast that my God is in control. Though everything seems absolutely chaotic, and nothing feels at peace or settled, He is unshaken. His plans are perfect and nothing can disrupt them. (Psalm 33:10-11; Job 42:2; Psalm 93:1)

When I’ve “got it together”, it’s only because He’s holding me together. It has nothing to do with how spiritual I am or how good I am at handling stress. I’m a wreck without Him (just ask my children when I’ve started out in a bad mood for the morning…oh Jesus, help me…).

I just love how my God handles me when I’m a wreck. He’s no drill sergeant. He’s not interested in giving a guilt trip. He doesn’t even act disappointed that I can’t get myself together.

He’s so kind. And truthful. And compassionate.

So when I’m in negative mode, I don’t have to be down on myself and feel guilty that I’m just not trusting Him. What I should do is recognize my weakness (admission), go to Him (confession, utter dependence), ask others to pray for me (humility, intercession), and let Him do His work in my heart (sanctification).

He delights to give His children good things and to see us walk in truth (Luke 11:13; Psalm 145:9, 15-16). When we give thanks for what we receive from Him and when we know the truth of who we are, we bring glory to His name. When we have been overwhelmed by His goodness, may we be quick to turn to Him with hearts full of gratitude  and shout with joy about what He’s done.

 

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Just Try Harder

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vine

I’ll never forget the message I received loud and clear one day as I was driving home from work some 5 years ago. I was listening to a Chip Ingram message from his Living on the Edge broadcast about the pressure we put on ourselves to just try harder and do better. See, I’m one of those people who is very critical of myself (and unfortunately of others…I’m working on that…), and I get into this mentality that when I mess up I should just try harder. I should beat myself up over not being perfect. I should feel really ashamed and wallow in it for a while. Ridiculous? Absolutely.

What does that even mean? To try harder? To be a “better Christian”? What does trying harder even look like? More self effort? More tears from failure and frustration? Or does it look like the Pharisee? More pride in self effort?

I’m thinking I want to stay clear of all of that. And you should too, frankly.

In his message, Chip mentioned that he was working with one of his sons on lifting weights. This event came after he and his wife were helping him through some life difficulties, including the son feeling like he was failing in some serious ways.  The son was having difficulty with lifting the weights (because he had just started and wasn’t very strong yet), and Chip kept yelling to him to “try harder!” “try harder!” The son would strain with all of his might, but the results were the same. He just couldn’t try hard enough.

Chip, being the wise father he is, had a great moment with his son at this point because he was able to lovingly direct his son that trying harder is not the answer. And trying harder in your Christian walk isn’t the answer for any of us either.

Let’s get one thing straight. There are definitely passages in Scripture that direct us to work out our faith with fear and trembling, to be good stewards of what God has given us, to run the race with perseverance. There’s nothing in my Bible that says we should just coast through this life being lazy bums because we don’t want to confront sin in our lives. Faith without works is dead, says James, the brother of Jesus. But there is a balance and a small twist to all of this.

 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Let this soak in. Let it pour over you like a refreshing stream of life. Read through the lines and see the grace in this. It is Christ’s power in you that allows you to do any good thing, to overcome any stronghold of sin, to run this race of life to His glory. It has absolutely nothing to do with you trying harder to better at this whole Christian thing. It is getting to the end of yourself, realizing you can’t do it, and watching God pick up and do beyond all you could ask or imagine. It’s when you can’t explain how it happened because there would be no reason for it to happen by your own power. It’s abiding in Him.

I am the vinenowatermark

When Christ spoke to the people about who He was, at one point He makes a statement about being the Vine. And we are the branches. We can’t ever be the Vine. And these branches can’t ever produce any grapes apart from being attached to the Vine.

Think of it, a piece of a grape branch lays on the path right next to the vine. It has no fruit on it, but it has a lot of PASSION to bear fruit. It DESIRES to be fruitful. It really wants to have a beautiful cluster of grapes growing on it, but try as it may, it just can’t seem to make grapes. Oh, it tries very hard. But the fact remains that it’s not connected to the vine.

You and I must realize that we have to ABIDE in the Vine, drawing from the POWER of Christ and the Holy Spirit, in order to conquer that habitual sin, to do any good thing, and to truly run the race set before us. Stop trying harder and go before Him with completely honesty that you can’t do it, and then ask Him for His power to be made perfect in your weakness. For when you are weak, then you are strong.

Will you or I get it right immediately? Probably not. Most likely not. Abiding in the Vine is not a one time event though. Chip Ingram went on to tell of the long hours he spent with his son in weight training. Eventually, his son could lift those weights that were impossible for him in the beginning. But it took time, and it wasn’t about him trying harder so much as it was trusting in the process of strengthening those muscles little by little (and being disciplined to stick to it). So, be weak and proud of it.

Take care to give Him the glory by boasting in your weakness.

Then watch Him go to work and amaze you.

vine abide